Category Archives: Aromatherapy

Yarrow Oil- A Thousand-Leafed Healer with Ancient Use as a Wound Salve

Yarrow Oil- A Thousand-Leafed Healer with Ancient Use as a Wound SalveIt may look like an inconspicuous green shrub in your garden, but yarrow (Achillea millifolium) has actually been used in medicine, cooking, and even divination for millennia in temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Yarrow essential oil can range from pale green to a striking dark blue, and is most commonly used in aromatherapy today for the treatment of minor wounds, pain and inflammation [1], and as a mild stimulant [2].

Yarrow is a flowering plant in the Asteraceae family, which is also home to well-known medicinal herbs such as chamomile and echinacea. The yarrow plant has many-branched, almost feathery green leaves and sprouts umbrella-like flowers that vary in color from white to pale pink. Yarrow grows wild in grasslands and open forests, and is also sold as an ornamental cultivar by many plant nurseries.

Yarrow’s long history of use is reflected in its wide array of common names, which include millefoil, thousand-leaf, thousand-seal, and soldier’s woundwort—a reference to yarrow’s use in wound poultices on the battlefields of medieval Europe [2]. Knowledge of yarrow’s wound-healing properties was passed down from Classical Rome and Greece. In the Iliad, yarrow is given to Achilles by Chiron, the centaur who trains him in the arts of war [4]. He teaches Achilles how to use yarrow as a wound salve for the soldiers under Achilles’ command.

Like many European herbs that are little known today, yarrow was once a popular cooking and flavoring herb that was added to everything from salads to savory dishes to beer: before hops rose to prominence, a yarrow-containing herbal mixture called gruit was a very popular agent for flavoring beer [2]. Today, you can still buy liqueurs and bitters that have been flavored with yarrow.

Thousands of miles away in China, dried yarrow stalks were used to interpret readings from the I Ching, or “Book of Changes” as part of Chinese divination practice. Along with tortoiseshell, yarrow is considered a lucky herb that “makes the eyes bright” and promotes intelligence according to traditional Chinese medicine [2].

In North America, indigenous peoples have also long used yarrow as a medicinal herb for relieving the pain of headaches and earaches, as well as treating head colds and fevers [5]. The Zuni people of the American Southwest even make a juice from yarrow leaves and flowers and apply it to the skin as an anti-inflammatory [5] before participating in fire-walking or fire-eating ceremonies!

The mildly aromatic yarrow essential oil is still used in aromatherapy to treat minor cuts and abrasions, since compounds in the leaves are known to promote blood clotting [4]. With its general anti-inflammatory properties, yarrow oil is excellent for relieving the pain of injuries, headaches or muscle aches [3], and for reducing the congestion associated with cold and flu [1]. Yarrow essential oil is also astringent, hypotensive, mild stimulant, and diaphoretic, used to reduce fevers by inducing sweating [5]. The whole herb is sometimes taken as a bitter tonic to aid digestion and stimulate the production of gastric juices [1]. A massage with diluted yarrow oil may also ease painful menstruation through its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects [4].

A few precautions with yarrow oil are to avoid the oil in pregnancy and always do a patch test with yarrow oil diluted in a carrier oil before using it on the skin. Since yarrow essential oil can cause skin irritation or headache in sensitive individuals [1], especially if used in large amounts, always dilute yarrow oil before use and use it in moderation. With its dry, herbal-woody fragrance, yarrow essential oil blends well with other herbaceous or sweet-woody oils such as chamomile, cedarwood, oakmoss and verbena. What the Greeks knew about this thousand-leafed healer can be yours again when you use yarrow essential oil in aromatherapy!


1. “Yarrow Essential Oil” Aromatherapy School. Accessed April 16th, 2014.

2. “Achillea millefolium.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 16th, 2014.

3. Benedek, Birgit, and Brigitte Kopp. July 2007. “Achillea millefolium L. s.l. Revisited: Recent Findings Confirm the Traditional Use.” Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 157 (13-14): 312-14.

4. Applequist, Wendy L., and Daniel E. Moerman. June 2011. “(Achillea millefolium L.): A Neglected Panacea? A Review of Ethnobotany, Bioactivity, and Biomedical Research. Economic Botany 65 (2): 209-225.

5. Hutchens, Alma R. 1973. Indian Herbology of North America. Shambhala Publications.

Essential Oils for Hot Flashes

Essential Oils for Hot FlashesFor many women, menopause can be a frustrating phase of life that’s often accompanied by uncomfortable physical symptoms caused by the changes in hormone production. Luckily, the plant kingdom has provided several solutions for women who want to lessen their discomfort during this life transition: using essential oils for hot flashes, to restore emotional balance, and to increase energy are just a few ways aromatherapy can help address the symptoms of menopause.

Triggered by the body’s decrease in the production of estrogen and related feminine hormones as a woman enters middle age, menopause can cause symptoms such as headaches, confusion, mood imbalances or depression, decreases in bone density, vaginal tenderness or dryness, and of course the infamous hot flash—a sudden feeling of being uncomfortably hot that is not caused by any external increase in temperature [1]. These and related symptoms are thought to be caused by the erratic or insufficient hormone production that occurs during menopause [1].

So, how can pure plant essential oils help decrease hot flashes and ease the transition through menopause? Treatments with essential oils for hot flashes work in three main ways: by delivering plant compounds called phytoestrogens into the body that mimic estrogen [2], the main female hormone; by directly inducing feelings of coolness; or by inducing mild perspiration to help bring the body’s temperature down.

Essential Oils with Phytoestrogens: Essential oils that contain phytoestrogens include angelica, anise, basil, clary sage, coriander, cypress, fennel, hop, and sage [2]. Other essential oils with balancing effects on feminine hormones are lavender, geranium, and rose: alone or in combination with the essential oils above, these oils can do much to reduce the occurrence and severity of hot flashes, as well as to reduce other dysphoric symptoms of menopause, such as generalized pain and headaches [3].

Essential Oils as a Direct Cooling Agent: the most popular cooling essential oil used to treat hot flashes is peppermint oil, which contains menthol, a compound that induces feelings of coolness when it contacts the skin or mucous membranes [4]. Peppermint oil is generally non-irritating and safe for use on skin once it has been diluted in a carrier oil. Other essential oils containing a significant amount of menthol are spearmint, eucalyptus, and radiata. Used sparingly in a blend or as a hydrosol, these oils can go a long way to helping you feel cool and comfortable again!

Essential Oils to Induce Sweating: A few essential oils can also reduce hot flashes by inducing perspiration. Essential oils with this effect are called diaphoretics, and the most popular diaphoretic essential oil for hot flashes is lemon oil [5]. With a gentle therapeutic effect and a bonus lift to the mood from its lemony fresh scent, lemon oil is definitely the diaphoretic to start with when working to relieve hot flashes resulting from menopause.

Essential oils can combat hot flashes and other menopause symptoms in a massage, warm bath, or when added to a moisturizing lotion. To amplify and speed up their beneficial effects, essential oils should be massaged into areas of the body with fat stores, as hormones are manufactured primarily in these areas [2]. The heat of a warm bath can also speed absorption and be quite soothing in itself, especially in cases of pain or inflammation. Finally, essential oils can also be added to a moisturizing cream with vitamin E—almond oil also works well—for topical application. Lavender and geranium, with their cell-regenerating effects, work especially well in this preparation!


1. “Menopause (Perimenopause)”. MedicineNet. Last Modified March 5th, 2013.

2. Keville, Kathy. May 1st, 2007. “How to Treat Menopause with Aromatherapy”. HowStuffWorks.

3. Hur, MH, YS Yang, and MS Lee. September 2008. “Aromatherapy massage affects menopausal symptoms in Korean climacteric women: a pilot-controlled clinical trial.” Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine 5 (3):325-8.

4. “Peppermint Essential Oil: Profile, Benefits and Uses.” AromaWeb. Accessed April 18th, 2014.

5. “Can Aromatherapy Stop Hot Flashes and Hormonal Night Sweats?”. Vibrant Nation. Last modified June 30th, 2011.

Petitgrain Oil – Substitute for Neroli Oil

Petitgrain Oil- A Substitute for Neroli Oil with Astringent and Antispasmodic EffectsIs there anything more refreshing than the smell of fresh oranges in the morning? There’s a reason why so many people can’t do without their breakfast glass of orange juice, and essential oils distilled from citrus fruits such as bergamot, sweet orange, and petitgrain have the same awakening qualities. Perfect for direct inhalation as a sort of “scent therapy” to alleviate feelings of gloom or the winter blues, petitgrain essential oil also has antibacterial, antispasmodic, and astringent properties [1] that make it a superstar in treating ailments from your head to your toes! Read on to discover the time-tested ways petitgrain oil has been used in aromatherapy and spa treatments.

Modern petitgrain oil is distilled from the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium), which is also the source of the delicately floral neroli essential oil. Though it is sometimes used as a substitute for neroli oil in fragrances—in fact, petitgrain oil is even sometimes nicknamed “poor man’s neroli”—petitgrain oil has a woodier, more herbaceous scent that distinguishes it from its more floral relative [1]. However, both types of oil have been used in perfumes, bathwaters and colognes since the 1700s for their pleasant, floral-citrusy scent, ability to tighten and moisturize the skin, and reputed aphrodisiac effects. Today, petitgrain oil is mainly produced in Paraguay and France, with the French variety said to have a longer-lasting, more intense aroma. The name “petitgrain” also comes from the French, meaning “little grain”, a reference to the old practice of distilling petitgrain oil from the green, unripe bitter oranges when they were still the size of cherries! Nowadays, because it is more economical, most producers harvest the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree to distill petitgrain oil.

All citrus oils seem to have uplifting and cheering effects on the mood, and petitgrain essential oil is no exception. The easiest way to use petitgrain oil is simply to inhale its sharp fragrance right from the bottle for an instant dose of cheer! Just the smell of petitgrain oil is thought to refresh the mind and fight “brain fog”, confusion, mental fatigue or stress, and mild cases of the blues. In a massage or blended into a moisturizing lotion, petitgrain essential oil can decongest oily skin and scalp and help clear up skin conditions such as acne and other blemishes [2]. The oil’s antispasmodic properties can ease nervous tension, tight muscles, and even indigestion and stomach cramps by relaxing spasms in smooth muscle [3]. Finally, due to its antiseptic and antibacterial effects [4], petitgrain oil can be inhaled from a diffuser or added to bath water to fight infections, especially colds and other upper respiratory ailments.

Like its cousin neroli, petitgrain oil is generally considered non-sensitizing and non-irritating. Because it is distilled from the leaves and twigs rather than the fruit peel of the bitter orange, petitgrain oil does not contain the coumarins found in citrus peel that can cause photo-sensitization when exposed to sunlight [3].

In our opinion, it’s hard to create a bad blend with petitgrain oil—it works with many different essential oils!—but the absolute yummiest combinations we’ve discovered pair petitgrain oil with other citrus oils such as bergamot, neroli, lime and sweet orange; woody oils such as cypress and sandalwood; and floral scents such as clary sage, geranium, lavender, jasmine, and ylang ylang.


1. “Health Benefits of Petitgrain Essential Oil. Organic Facts. Accessed April 23rd, 2014.

2. Ryman, Danièle. “Petitgrain Essential Oil”. Aromatherapy Bible. Accessed April 22nd, 2014.

3. Martin, Ingrid. 2006. Aromatherapy for Massage Practitioners. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

4. “Petitgrain (Bigarde) Essential Oil Aromatherapy.” Annie’s Aromatherapy. Accessed April 22nd, 2014.

Pine Needle Oil Strengthens the Immune System and Improves Focus

Pine Needle Oil Strengthens the Immune System and Improves FocusBrrr! It’s that time of year again! In January, winter can often seem endless, and the temptation to curl up under a blanket and forget the world can be nearly overwhelming. Unfortunately, not only do the demands of life and work conspire to get us out of bed when we’d rather hide away, midwinter is often ground-zero for all kinds of nasty bugs such as cold and flu, which can make the simplest daily activities a misery.

Pine needle essential oil to the rescue! This invigorating, uplifting oil distilled from the needle-shaped leaves of the pine tree is perfect for easing the winter doldrums, inspiring focused energy, and fighting infection. With a smell like fresh pine needles, pine needle oil is also perfect for diffusion, adding a woodsy, refreshing fragrance to any living area!

The pine tree (Abies sibirica) is a coniferous evergreen native to Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and Turkestan, although other members of the Abies genus are scattered all over Europe and North America. Pines prefer forest environments with cold, moist soil and are usually found on mountainsides and in river basins, where they grow in thick groves. With its dense green foliage and conical shape, the pine tree is the model for the classic Christmas tree and can grow up to 30-35 meters (98-115 feet) in height. Pine trees are extremely frost tolerant, able to remain hardy and viable at temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit) [1]!

Despite their ubiquity, pine trees are not a common source of lumber because their wood tends to be of the softer whitish variety that is unsuitable for building. While pine trees have some use as a source of soft wood for making paper and packing crates, their main commercial use is in aromatherapy and perfumery [1]: the balsamic, dry-woody scent of pine needle essential oil can provide a sharp middle note to balance more floral fragrances in soaps, cleansers and personal fragrances. Because it is high in phenols, a class of disinfectant chemicals, pine needle oil is also a main ingredient in the well-known household cleanser Pine-Sol [2]. Yet many centuries before Pine-Sol came onto the market, Native Americans were placing pine boughs in their homes to repel lice, bedbugs and other pests. For generations, pine boughs have also been burned as a purifying incense in Native American sweat lodge ceremonies. Clearly, the pine tree has had a long history as a cleanser and freshener!

Like fir needle oil, the essential oil of the pine tree has detoxifying benefits for the whole body when it is absorbed through inhalation, massage, steaming, or in a warm bath. In aromatherapy, pine needle essential oil is primarily used as an analgesic in cases of rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, and sore muscles [3]; as a respiratory decongestant for colds and flu, sinusitis, bronchitis, and chest cough [3]; and to rejuvenate the body and restore mental and emotional balance, especially during the winter months. With its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, pine needle essential oil is an excellent complementary treatment for upper respiratory infections [3], clearing congestion while rooting out infections at their source.

Although pine needle essential oil is generally non-sensitizing and non-irritating, it may be irritating to sensitive skin and should always be used in dilution for topical applications. Try adding pine needle essential oil to a facial toner or lotion and let its astringent effects tighten and tone your skin, or add it to a carrier oil as part of an essential oil blend. Though pine needle oil blends well with many essential oils, our favorite way to use it is in an immune-stimulating, invigorating blend of other piney oils such as cypress, cedarwood, fir, and rosemary. To really give your constitution a lift during these short days, try adding a few camphoraceous oils to this mix, such as eucalyptus, niaouli, and tea tree oils, all of which have their own expectorant and anti-microbial properties [4]. Synergized with pine needle oil, this blend will give you all the energy you need to make the most of the daylight hours!


1. “Abies sibirica“. Wikipedia. Accessed May 2nd, 2014.

2. Stewart, Susan and Vicki Ambrosio. A Beginner’s Reference Guide to Aromatherapy and Herbs. 2011.

3. Keville, Kathy. “Aromatherapy: Fir”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed May 2nd, 2014.

4. Inouye, Shigeharu, Toshio Takezawa, and Hideyo Yamaguchi. January 22nd, 2001. “Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact.” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 47 (5): 565-73.

Palmarosa Oil Nourishes and Repairs Damaged Skin

Palmarosa Grass in the GardenAlthough once mentioned in the same breath as rose oil, today palmarosa essential oil has fallen out of common knowledge, so we at Essential Oil Exchange decided to provide a little refresher on its source and applications. Native to India and Southeast Asia, palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) is a fragrant perennial grass; as you may have guessed from its genus name, palmarosa is related to lemongrass and citronella, and like them, its oil can be used to repel biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes [1]. Palmarosa grass has been traditionally cultivated in India for its essential oil, which has recognized medicinal and household properties.

Because its odor is repellent to insects, in India palmarosa oil was often added to stores of grains and beans to prevent insect damage. The oil was also added to cooked food to kill bacteria and parasites and aid digestion as a gastric stimulant. Palmarosa oil also saw trade in ancient times that took it as far as ancient Egypt, where the dried grass was burned as temple incense. In Turkey, palmarosa oil was commonly used to adulterate the more expensive rose otto, and sometimes even passed off as rose oil due to its similar scent, which gave palmarosa its name.

Today, palmarosa essential oil is still sometimes used as a rose oil substitute in more inexpensive soaps, perfumes, and other fragrance products. The oil is also the main commercial source of geraniol, a component of many essential oils that is widely used in cleansers, detergents and perfumes for its aromatic properties. Palmarosa oil ranks up with citronella and lemongrass as an effective natural insect repellent [2] that also has antibacterial, anti-fungal [3], and antiviral actions [2]. In aromtherapy, palmarosa essential oil is mainly used to heal and tone the skin; its broad-spectrum anti-microbial actions [3] make it an effective balm for treating skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis that may be the result of fungal or bacterial infection. Palmarosa oil also hydrates the skin and encourages the cellular regeneration of damaged tissues [4], making it a perfect tonic for dry, weathered or mature skin; and because it’s generally non-sensitizing and non-irritating, palmarosa oil is safe for use on most skin types.

On the emotional plane, palmarosa is a gently uplifting and energizing fragrance, with many of the same antidepressant properties as a citrus oil such as bergamot or neroli oil. Its invigorating effect on the mind can help mitigate states of stress and nervous exhaustion, mental and physical fatigue, and the winter “blues” [4]. Ready to try palmarosa essential oil for yourself? Diffuse the oil from a burner or diffuser to create an uplifting fragrance for any season, or try mixing a small quantity of palmarosa with other floral-citrusy oils such as bergamot, geranium, lime, and rosemary for a sensual blend that will tone the skin and make you glow all over!


1. “Cymbopogon martinii.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 2nd, 2014.

2. Duke, J. A, and J. du Cellier. 1993. CRC Handbook of Alternative Cash Crops Boca Raton: CRC Press.

3. Pattnaik S, VR Subramanyam, M Bapaji and CR Kole. 1997. “Antibacterial and anti-fungal activity of aromatic constituents of essential oils.” Microbios. 89: 39-46.

4. “Palmarosa Oil Profile”. Oils and Plants. Accessed May 2nd, 2014.

Black Pepper Oil as a Warming Energizer and Analgesic

Black peppercornsBlack pepper is one of the most ubiquitous spices in the world, and its pungent, slightly spicy flavor is used to bring out the complexity in everything from roast meat to soup to green salads. However, it turns out that black pepper can do more than stimulate the taste buds: black pepper essential oil is also used therapeutically to promote circulation, treat indigestion, relieve chills, and energize the whole body [1].

Although black pepper is now the second most-used seasoning in the world after salt, in ancient times black pepper was a rare and valuable commodity, so much so that it was used as currency in some regions of the world! The black pepper plant (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine with broad, heart-shaped green leaves and clusters of tiny round green fruits. Native to South India, black pepper is now grown in many tropical regions of the world, with the foremost producer being Vietnam. The green fruits, called peppercorns, are processed in different ways to produce black, white, green, and red pepper. The differences depend on how the peppercorns are processed: black pepper comes from peppercorns that have been dried and cooked; green pepper is made from dried, uncooked corns; and white pepper is made from just the seed of the fruit [2]. Black peppercorns are typically ground or powdered into the familiar spice, although they can be purchased whole in many grocery stores.

Black Pepper Oil as a Warming Energizer and Analgesic

Peppercorns change color and texture depending on how they are processed, producing the four different types of pepper.

The history of black pepper truly spans the globe: one of the earliest trade spices, black pepper has been found in preparations used to embalm Egyptian mummies, and there is evidence it was available (though expensive) in ancient Greece. When the Roman Empire established a trade route from Italy to India, black pepper quickly became so in demand that the Roman chronicler Pliny wrote critically about the vast sums of money the empire was spending on the condiment. Rome also gave us the modern word pepper, derived from the Latin piper and related to the Dravidian word for the plant, pippali. Probably due to its spicy, bracing flavor, the word pepper also came to mean spirit, energy, or verve—and in English, this was later shortened to simply, “pep”. Later on, black pepper influenced the course of history as one of the South Asian spices over which European trading powers tried to gain a monopoly, along with nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.

There’s no denying that black pepper adds life to countless savory dishes, but it was also highly valued as a medicine in Asia and Europe. For one thing, piperine, the compound in black pepper that gives it its “pep”, has also been observed to enhance the body’s absorption of nutrients such as selenium, B vitamins, and beta-carotenes [3]. Not bad for something it takes just a second to sprinkle onto your food!

The therapeutic uses of black pepper essential oil are even more expansive: black pepper oil has thermogenic properties, meaning it raises body temperature and promotes circulation [4]; in a massage, this action makes black pepper oil incredibly useful for easing the pain of arthritis, rheumatism, and sore muscles, as well as reducing chills and feelings of coldness in the hands and feet [4]. Black pepper essential oil is also used to reduce a fever by promoting sweating, to stimulate appetite, and to treat indigestion [5].

Black pepper oil is also emotionally stimulating and energizing; its woody-spicy aroma can be helpful in addressing nervous exhaustion and emotional coldness, and to spur the mind into a more proactive state. Because of its circulatory stimulant action, minute quantities of black pepper oil can also serve as an overlooked yet inexpensive aphrodisiac, especially in a gentle massage.

Despite its spicy reputation, black pepper essential oil is generally non-sensitizing, though it may be irritating to sensitive skin and should always be diluted in a carrier oil before use. Our preferred way to use this warm, woody-spicy oil is to blend minute quantities with other essential oils in specialized blends. Try a spicy-floral combination of black pepper, geranium, lavender, and ylang ylang for an unforgettable exotic perfume, or combine black pepper oil with other energizers such as ginger, bergamot and coriander oil for a scent that will have you leaping out of bed in the morning. With a little experimentation, you’re sure to find your favorite use for this versatile exotic oil!


1. “Black Pepper Essential Oil Profile, Benefits and Uses”. Aromaweb. Accessed May 7th, 2014.

2. “Black Pepper.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 7th, 2014.

3. Dudhatra GB, SK Mody, MM Awale, HB Patel, CM Modi, A Kumar, DR Kamani, BN Chauhan. 2012. “A comprehensive review on pharmacotherapeutics of herbal bioenhancers”. The Scientific World Journal.  

4. Heep, Alexandra. March 17th, 2010. “Uses of Black Pepper Essential Oil”.

5. “Health Benefits of Black Pepper Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed May 7th, 2014.

Neroli Oil Brightens the Spirits, Calms the Nerves, and Brings Balance

Neroli Orange BlossomThe delicate floral scent of neroli essential oil has been prized in perfumery since the 1600s because of its ability to lift the mood, banish fatigue, and improve the skin’s complexion and color. Distilled from the flower of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium var. amara), neroli oil has a lighter aroma than other citrus-based essential oils, floral with rich honey undertones. Because of their delicacy, neroli blossoms must be hand harvested, usually from April to June, and distilled using water rather than steam to preserve their fragile array of chemical compounds.

Besides neroli oil, the bitter orange tree is also the source of petitgrain essential oil (from the leaves and twigs) and bitter orange oil (from the fruit rind) [1]. Originating probably from the Middle East, the juice and rind of the bitter orange were used medicinally throughout the Arab world and Europe: bitter orange juice was recommended by Gerard, a British herbalist, for healing scorpion stings and expelling intestinal parasites. Although bitter oranges were probably never used as a food—they are quite sour, as their name suggests—the juice may also have been used as a gastric stimulant and treatment for indigestion. Another common use was to place dried orange peel or whole fruit into linen chests to repel moths that could destroy textiles. This practice has survived in the pomander, an aromatic dried orange studded with cloves that can be used to scent drawers or entire rooms, often around Christmastime.

Neroli Oil Brightens the Spirits, Calms the Nerves, and Brings Balance

A traditional orange pomander studded with clove buds.

Neroli essential oil only really came into its own in the late 1600s, when the Italian princess Anne Marie Orsini began using the oil to scent her gloves and bathwater, making neroli oil the fasionable fragrance of the era: the name neroli actually derives from Nerola, the Italian city where she ruled [1]. Due to its distinctive yet unobtrusive scent, neroli oil features in up to 12% of perfumes produced today, and is speculated to be one of the secret flavoring ingredients in the closely guarded recipe for Coca-Cola [1]. Blending well with most essential oils, particularly floral and citrus oils such as bergamot and petitgrain, neroli oil is a common ingredient in facial creams and toners, including the famed orange flower water, because its astringent properties tone the skin [2]. However, since many commercial orange flower waters contain alcohol and other additives that can dry out the skin, we recommend buying your own neroli essential oil and diluting a bit in a spray bottle of water to make small, easy-to-use quantities of this excellent toner.

In aromatherapy, neroli essential oil is especially helpful for its calming effects on the emotions: simply inhaling neroli oil can help reduce nerves, balance emotional turmoil, and reduce feelings of distress [3, 4]. Some aromatherapists also use neroli oil to treat occasional sleeplessness [4]. Besides its toning actions on the skin, a massage with neroli essential oil can also stimulate circulation and minimize the appearance of stretch marks, varicose veins, and thread vein scars [2]. Its circulatory stimulant properties can also help diminish or eliminate under-eye puffiness and provide mild pain relief [2].

Unlike citrus oils derived from the fruit rind, neroli essential oil does not contain the coumarin compounds that can cause photosensitization and is safe to use by itself on skin that may be exposed to sunlight [1]. Whether you use it in a perfume, facial toner, massage, or simply diffuse it into your home, this light, flowery oil is sure to brighten your spirits and help your light shine!


1. “Neroli.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 7th, 2014.

2. O’Leary, Sarah. November 9th, 2012. “Relieve Depression and Increase Confidence with Neroli Oil”. Holistic Hot Sauce.

3. Keville, Kathy and Mindy Green. December 2008. Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. Crossing Press.

4. Chen, Ying-ju, Fuchou Cheng, Ying Shih, Tsong-Min Chang, Ming-Fu Wang, Sen-Sen Lan. June 2008. “Inhalation of Neroli Essential Oil and Its Anxiolytic Effects.” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 5 (1).

Niaouli Oil for Respiratory Infections, Congestion, and Inflammation

"Paperbark"  Niaouli treeAmong the array of healing Australian oils offered at Essential Oil Exchange, there is a little-known oil steam disilled from the leaves of Melaleuca quinquenervia. Niaouli essential oil doesn’t get much press, yet its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties rank up there with tea tree and eucalyptus oil, two of its more famous relatives. Niaouli oil is a clear to pale yellow-green mobile liquid with a fresh, camphoraceous odor reminiscent of eucalyptus. In aromatherapy it is most often used as an antiseptic and expectorant [1], especially in a blend with eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, pine, myrrh, and ravensara oils, all of which have phenomenal disinfectant and expectorant properties of their own and synergize powerfully with niaouli oil.

Niaouli (nee-AH-oo-LEE) is an evergreen tree related to the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), and is native to the former French Pacific Islands, New Caledonia, and Australia. The tree itself has a flexible trunk, spongy bark, and shiny pointed leaves that indigenous Australians used to make wound poultices, reduce fevers, and disinfect water holes by scattering the leaves into them. In fact, niaouli leaves are such an effective antiseptic that the leaves and oil were later used to disinfect obstetric wards in French hospitals [2].

Botanists on Captain Cook’s 1788 voyage to the Pacific were the first to give niaouli its Latin name and classify it alongside the tea tree. Today, niaouli essential oil is still added to toothpastes and mouth sprays as a disinfectant, and its list of uses in aromatherapy is also growing apace. Because of its similar therapeutic properties, aromatherapists will sometimes substitute the gentler-scented niaouli oil for tea tree oil when working with clients who object to the medicinal odor of tea tree oil [2]. Like eucalyptus, niaouli oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and is often used in massage to treat rheumatism and arthritis [1]. A topical niaouli oil blend can also be beneficial in fighting acne, boils, decongesting oily skin, and disinfecting minor cuts and wounds [3].

However, where niaouli essential oil really shines is in treating respiratory infections and congestion. Niaouli oil works as an expectorant when it is inhaled from a diffuser or in a steam bath, and the oil’s antiviral, antiseptic, and decongestant properties have been used to treat the common cold, bronchitis, whooping cough, sinusitis, chest cough, and even tuberculosis [2]. The cooling minty quality of niaouli oil can soothe a respiratory tract that has become irritated, while the aroma lifts fatigue and gives a much-needed boost to the immune system, especially in these trying winter months.


1. Duke, James A. 1983. “Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav) ST Blake” in Handbook of Energy Crops. Purdue University.

2. “Niaouli – Aromatherapy (Melaleuca viridiflora)”. Herbs2000. Accessed May 8th, 2014.

3. “Niaouli Essential Oil Profile, Benefits and Uses.” AromaWeb. Accessed May 8th, 2014.

Mugwort Oil and Its Uses in Dreamwork and Magical Protection

A stand of mugwort growing wildFew herbs have had more uses in magic and ritual protection in European folklore than mugwort, a dark green shrub related to the famous absinthe wormwood. Best known as a dream herb used by shamans as a liquid dream pillow, mugwort essential oil has also been used to addess menstrual complaints, ease pain and inflammation, and treat parasites [1]. Like many bitter herbs, fresh mugwort leaves are thought to stimulate digestion, and feature in Korean and Japanese cuisine, where they may be added fresh to salads or used to flavor mochi, sweet rice cakes. However, mugwort’s possibilities go far beyond its use as a garnish.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is a tall, herbaceous perennial native to temperate Europe, North Africa, Asia and parts of Alaska. Its feathery dark green leaves are coated with silver hairs underneath, and it has yellow or dark red flowers. Throughout Europe, mugwort has been deeply connected to magical protection, dreamwork, and divination. Scholars believe that the name “mugwort” may be a reference to its use as a flavoring additive in beer before Bavarian purity laws stipulated that only hops could be used for this purpose. Alternatively, the word may be from the Old English mugc, meaning moth, because it was believed that mugwort repelled moths and other insects.

Mugwort was an essential traveler’s herb: keeping some of the leaves in a sachet was believed to offer protection from wild beasts and spirit possession, as well as prevent sunstroke and exhaustion [4]. Roman soldiers used to place mugwort leaves inside their sandals to keep their feet from getting tired during long marches [2]. Besides being used as a flavoring for beer, in England mugwort herbage was also a main ingredient in the stuffing for roast goose. During World War II when tea reached 7 shillings per pound, mugwort leaves became a popular tea substitute in the region of Cornwall.

Bean paste buns flavored with mugwort

Mugwort is used to flavor Japanese sweets, such as these green mochi with red bean filling.

Medicinally, mugwort essential oil has gastric stimulant, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and emmenagogue properties [1]; it is especially effective at soothing monthly menstrual pain and encouraging menstrual flow. In moxibustion, a type of traditional Chinese medicine, a cone of mugwort leaves is heated and placed on affected areas of the body for ailments such as rheumatism, lack of appetite, to expel parasites, and to induce sweating in order to break a fever [3].

Today, mugwort is known as an exemplary dream herb: the leaves may be taken as a tea or placed under the pillow to enhance dream recall [4]. Similarly, mugwort essential oil may be diffused into a bedroom or diluted and used as a pillow spray in dreamwork. Due to its thujone content, mugwort oil should always be used sparingly in dilution, and should never be taken internally. A few drops of a mugwort oil blend in a diffuser or room spray are all it takes to induce vivid, memorable dreams that can be recalled upon waking.


1. “Health Benefits of Mugwort Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed May 8th, 2014.

2. Wright, Colin (ed.). 2002. Artemisia. London, New York: Taylor & Francis.

3. “Mugwort Leaf (ai ye)”. Acupuncture Today: The Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine News Source. Accessed May 8th, 2014.

4. “Mugwort: Artemisia vulgaris“. Annie’s Remedy: Essential Oils and Herbs. Accessed May 8th, 2014.

Sweet Orange Oil as an Immune Stimulant and Nerve Tonic

Orange tree in groveOne of the most celebrated fruits in the world, sweet oranges account for up to 70% of all citrus species cultivated today. Sweet orange essential oil is also one of the most versatile essential oils, with an extensive list of household and medicinal uses. Produced as a byproduct of pressing orange juice, sweet orange essential oil can be used as a household detergent (especially on treated wood), hand cleanser, fragrance, and in aromatherapy. Sweet orange oil is a yellow-orange to dark orange mobile liquid with an unmistakable sweet citrusy fragrance. It blends well with lavender, myrrh, other citrus oils such as lemon and neroli, and spice oils such as clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.

The sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) is likely a hyrbid of the tangerine and pomelo, two other citrus species. Native probably to Southeast or East Asia, the sweet orange tree is a small evergreen with white flowers; the round fruit has a bright to dark orange peel. Orange cultivation may date as far back as 2500 BC in China, and there are now many varieties of orange and orange hybrid, including the blood orange, tangelo, bitter orange, navel, and Valencia orange. While historians believe the bitter orange was known in Southern Europe since the Crusades of the 1100s—where it was used for medicinal purposes—the sweet orange did not arrive in Europe until the late 15th or 16th century, through trade with the Middle East. Sweet oranges were considered a luxury item in the 1500s, and rich nobles would grow them in greenhouses called orangeries. Spanish colonists later brought the first oranges to the New World via Hispañiola and other Caribbean islands. Today, Brazil, California and Florida produce the most oranges for the worldwide produce market [1].

The simplest way to use oranges is simply to eat them fresh! People also love squeezing orange pulp to make juice, as well as grating the rind—called the zest—to flavor baked goods, liqueurs and savory dishes. In the centuries before refrigeration, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch sailors planted orange groves along their trade routes so they could harvest the vitamin C-rich fruits as a defense against scurvy. Even today, in situations where the nutritional value of food must be maximized while generating a minimum of food waste, oranges play a crucial role: though not as tasty as the pulp, submarine crews will often eat orange peels on long voyages [1].

The uses of sweet orange essential oil are almost as various as the uses of the fresh fruit. As a cleanser, sweet orange oil can be added to water and used to wash down surfaces such as kitchen and bathroom counters, sinks, and toilets, where it acts as a strong natural antiseptic [2]. Adding a small bit of orange oil or lemon oil to a wooden counter or cutting board can also revitalize wood that has been stained with food, ink or coffee residues.

Medicinally, sweet orange essential oil has both mild stimulant and sedative qualities on different organ systems: inhaled or applied via massage, it can boost sluggish digestion and be helpful in combating indigestion, flatulence, or lack of appetite, and may also stimulate the lymphatic system [3]. Conversely, sweet orange oil may also act as a mild nerve sedative, promoting calmness while also lifting the mood [4]. It has noted benefits for the skin because it supports the formation of collagen, the connective tissue within cells, and can also help the body get rid of excess fluid by acting as a mild diuretic [4]. Besides its direct antiseptic action on infections such as the common cold, sweet orange oil helps stimulate the immune system to stave off opportunistic illnesses [5].

 If you choose to work with sweet orange essential oil in a massage blend, be sure to wait at least 24 hours before exposing treated skin to sunlight to prevent a possible photosensitizing reaction. Or simply diffuse the fruity, refreshing scent of orange oil into your living room or bathroom to perk up the senses and energize the mind with every breath.


1. “Orange (fruit)”. Wikipedia. Accessed May 13th, 2014.

2. Dabbah, Roger, VM Edwards and WA Moats. 1970. “Anti-microbial action of citrus fruit oils on selected food-borne bacteria.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 19 (1): 27-31.

3. Morton, Julia F. 1987. “Orange: Medicinal Uses” In: Fruits of Warm Climates pp 134-142.

4. “Health Benefits of Orange Essential Oil.” Organic Facts. Accessed May 13th, 2014.

5. “Sweet Orange Essential Oil Uses”. Naturally Healthy Families. Last modified October 11th, 2011.